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Palm Beach County Commissioners vote to move forward with inland port in everglades

 

By Mark Hollis

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

September 10, 2008  

Palm Beach County commissioners voted Tuesday to back a plan to build an industrial center, or inland port, on thousands of acres south of Lake Okeechobee despite concerns that the development could interfere with Everglades restoration. 

Hundreds of residents from western Palm Beach County, hopeful that the project will bring thousands of jobs to the economically stagnant area,joined sugar producer Florida Crystals in lobbying commissioners for theendorsement. 

The project would link seaside ports on Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coastswith roads and rail lines. It also calls for placing on a roughly 3,500-acre site, likely somewherealong U.S. 27, a vast patch of concrete where trucks and shipping containers wouldhandle goods from the ports.

Proponents say the project might create as manyas 3,200 jobs by 2015. Commissioners were hesitant to back a specific site. But worried that the venture could go to Hendry County, where there's an effort to woo the development, they voted 5-2 to direct county planners to revamp land-use regulations to prepare for the project. 

During a three-hour discussion, advocates told commissioners the project could make up for some job losses in the wake of the state's proposal tospend $1.75 billion buying out U.S. Sugar Corp. 

"This inland port is like when you're sick and need a blood transfusion," Pahokee Mayor Wayne Whitaker said. "This inland port would give us a blood transfusion. We could grow our tax base. We could build industrial parks. Itwould make us more independent." 

Opponents said they fear the project would negate benefits from the U.S. Sugar land purchase.

"I am very sympathetic to the people of the Glades, and I am sorry that theyare being used as pawns," said Drew Martin, a Sierra Club leader from Lake Worth. "I am sorry that they are being offered a lot of false hope.

The truebeneficiary of this is the Fanjul family and a few land-owners." The Fanjuls own the Florida Crystals sugar company. 

END

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"We must build a peace in South Florida - a peace between the people and their place, between the natural environment and man-made settlement, between the works of man and the life of mankind itself. "
~ Florida Gov. Reubin Askew ~